n South African Journal of Surgery - Palliation of malignant hilar obstruction at a single centre - review of operative and non-operative techniques : general surgery

Volume 45, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0038-2361
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5151


Jaundice secondary to a malignant hilar obstruction can be relieved by operative bypass or percutaneous stenting. Comparative trials involving these techniques are scarce. We reviewed our experience with these competing techniques in the palliation of malignant hilar obstruction.

All patients with malignant hilar obstruction managed at our institution during the period 1992 - 2002 were identified for review.
a total of 36 deeply jaundiced patients with hilar obstruction were identified. Twenty-two patients underwent exploration with the intention of performing an operative bypass and 14 patients underwent percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) with intention to stent. Procedure-related mortality was similar in both groups. Morbidity was much higher in the operative group. Effective symptom relief was achieved with both techniques. In the PTC group recurrent biliary obstruction in 2 patients necessitated salvage non-operative procedures. Although survival rates were slightly longer in the operative group, this was not significant. There were no long-term survivors.
Operative bypass provides better sustained relief of jaundice than PTC. However long-term survival in both groups is poor and operative bypass is best reserved for younger patients with no technical contraindications. Despite early and late procedural failures PTC is the method of choice for patients with advanced-stage disease and those with significant co-morbidities.

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